Patriots

Scott Pioli recalled ‘secret meeting’ with Bill Belichick and Corey Dillon prior to 2004 trade

"I'll tell you, it was a match made in heaven."

Corey Dillon
Corey Dillon celebrates after winning the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Jan. 2005. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Retired running back Corey Dillon joined the Patriots in 2004 and immediately set the team’s single-season rushing recording while also helping New England to a second consecutive Super Bowl win.

But, as was recently revealed, the start of Dillon’s Patriots career had a much more humble feel to it. Instead of the setting being the NFL draft or a high-profile free agent tour at the team’s facility, it was a hotel room in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

Former Patriots personnel executive Scott Pioli (now a football analyst for NFL Network) recently marked the anniversary of the Patriots’ trade for Dillon by sharing backstory on some research that he did with Bill Belichick prior to the deal with the Bengals.

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“About a week before the draft, Belichick and I get in my car and we do a little road trip down to Rocky Hill, Connecticut,” Pioli recalled. “At the Residence in Rocky Hill, Connecticut we meet with Corey Dillon and his agent Steve Feldman.

“The Cincinnati Bengals were getting ready to trade him, they wanted to trade him, but Bill and I were in a situation where we wanted to spend time with Corey to make sure that he was going to understand our culture, understand everything that we did,” Pioli continued. “So there we were in this little room in Rocky Hill, Connecticut; Feldman, Corey Dillon, Belichick, and myself, and we were having this conversation, trying to get to know Corey a little bit more than what we knew as a football player. We loved the player, we loved the competitor, we loved his intensity.”

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Ultimately, Pioli and Belichick came away impressed with the then-Cincinnati running back.

“I’ll tell you, it was a match made in heaven,” said Pioli. “We left that Residence Inn that day feeling so good about it.”

In the end, the Patriots sent a second-round pick to the Bengals in exchange for Dillon,  who rushed for 1,635 yards in his first year with the Patriots, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and totaling 13 touchdowns.

The 30-year-old had never played in the postseason until the trade to New England, and he made the most of his first opportunity, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and helping Belichick’s team to its third championship in four years.

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“He was a complete game-changer for that football team that year,” said Pioli. “And there was no way that we could have drafted a player that would have given us that season at whatever we could have picked at [pick] 56.”

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